Italy's local production sector is booming, with a clutch of top directors busy on projects with international partners. Dario Argento has Giallo (literally 'thriller'), a $10m English-language film financed by Los Angeles-based Hannibal Pictures. 'It's fast-paced and creepy,' promises producer Rafael Primorac, of the plot which centres on the abduction of a supermodel (played by Elsa Pataky). The project will shoot in Turin this spring.
Gabriele Salvatores is shooting the $9m As God Commands, produced by Maurizio Totti for Colorado Film and Rai Cinema. Totti says the picture is attracting interest from sales agents and investors on both sides of the Atlantic.
'It's a mix of genres, something we Italians handle well - it's a thriller, noir, drama and even part comedy,' Totti says.
The film is set in the Northern Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region, which also hosted the 2006 shoot of Giuseppe Tornatore's The Unknown. Tornatore is now shooting Baaria - La Porta Del Vento in his native Tunisia and in Sicily. Produced by Medusa and Paris-based Quinta Communications, the under-wraps project is said to be Tornatore's most personal project to date.
A further three Italian directors are working on politically themed films, one of the country's strongest genres. Marco Tullio Giordana's Crazy Blood, about fascist-era actors Osvaldo Valenti and Luisa Ferida, is ready. Shot in Turin, Venice, the Po River delta, Milan and Rome, the $15.5m (EUR10m) film is produced by Angelo Barbagallo's Bibi Films with France's Paradis Films and Orly Film co-producing. Wild Bunch is handling world sales.
Director Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo, inspired by the life of former Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti, has also been completed. Indigo Film and Lucky Red, co-produced with France's Babe Film while Beta Cinema handles sales on the $7.8m (EUR5m) project.
Finally, Marco Bellocchio returns to the political genre with Vincere, which looks at the life of dictator Benito Mussolini. Produced by Mario Gianani for Offside and Rai Cinema, the 12-week, $12.4m (EUR8m) shoot is set to kick off this month in Turin and other northern Italian locations.
Gianani says the project's international appeal hinges on Bellocchio: 'He's taking an old theme and translating it for a modern era.' Celluloid Dreams is handling world sales and co-producing.
Turin Piedmont Film commission president Steve Della Casa says credit for international interest in these projects should go to the directors involved. 'Giallo wouldn't be shot in Turin if Argento wasn't involved. But there's something of everything in these films - genre, art, politics, thrillers, festival winners. These film-makers attract international attention,' he says.